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County Health Agency advises public to be cautious if they see tar balls

Alexander Nguyen
Encinitas resident Mark O'Connor picking up a tar ball on Moonlight Beach, Oct. 7, 2021.

The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency Thursday advised the public to be cautious at beaches and avoid contact with tar balls.

There have been increased reports of tar balls washing ashore on North County beaches, the agency reported.

It's unclear if the increased numbers are directly related to the oil spill off the coast of Orange County, an official said.


Natural geologic processes may cause tar balls to wash ashore and visible oil hasn't been detected, the official said.

The warning is precautionary, as oil content may vary widely based on location and health impacts are unknown, the official said. Crude or processed oil can be carcinogenic and contact should be avoided.

However, brief contact with the substance "is unlikely to cause significant or lasting health concerns for most people," the official said.

Some people are especially sensitive to certain chemicals possibly found in oil slicks or tar balls, and may develop skin rashes or other conditions, the official said.

People coming into contact with tar balls should clean themselves thoroughly with soap and water or other skin-safe cleaners, according to the official.


The agency advised people not to use degreasers, cleaning solutions or solvents as they may further damage skin, and seek medical attention if they develop a significant rash or suffer a reaction.

County Health Agency advises public to be cautious if they see tar balls